Space,Time and Architecture: the growth of a new tradition.

The eleventh edition of Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History of

Architecture on the Comparative Method published in 1943,

which was my student copy bought second hand about five

years later, does not list Balthasar Neumann’s Vierzehnheiligen

or the Assam Brothers’ S. Johannes Nepomuk Church in

Munich, to take two exuberant examples of South German

Baroque. Ever since the first edition of 1896, these buildings

were clearly not considered sufficiently significant to be included.

The twentieth and centenary edition of 1996 describes both

churches and moreover devotes space to illustrations. The

earlier editions also made a clear distinction between two

curiously labelled divisions: the historical styles derived from

Egypt and the classical world of the Mediterranean and the non historical

styles which embraced any non-European architecture.

The latest edition makes no such distinction and takes a

much more global view. Such a change in approach owes as

much to politics and an awareness of where the market is to be

found as to art history.

All buildings have meanings that are deeply enmeshed

with their appearance. That can surely be taken as axiomatic.

But that appearance is itself read differently at different times

and to some extent depends on what we want to see, what our

eye expects to have presented.

In 1938 – 39 Sigfried Giedion delivered the Charles Eliot

Norton lectures at Harvard which were subsequently published

in his highly influential Space,Time and Architecture: the growth

of a new tradition. The third and enlarged edition of 1954 gives

considerable emphasis to the baroque both in architecture and

urban planning. Francesco Borromini, Guarino Guarini and

Balthasar Neumann are prominent. Vierzehnheiligen, for example,

is discussed in terms of the control of clear light on curved

surfaces, and in the relation of architecture, sculpture and

decoration. The main reason for its inclusion, as of the other

examples from the baroque, is, however, that there is a freedom

of planning and an exploitation of non-euclidean geometry.


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